It is time to give George W. Bush some credit for his oft-criticized foreign policy.
If the president‘s hyped Roadmap for Peace concludes successfully, he could spend the rest of his time in office baling hay at his Texas ranch and still qualify as one of the best presidents of the 21st century.
Okay, we‘ve only had two presidents serve in this century so far. Still, an agreement and implementation of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as outlined by the Bush plan, would put him in a league with George Washington‘s role in our fight for independence and Abe Lincoln‘s brave management of the American Civil War.
If you think that such a lofty rating of President Bush would be an exaggeration, consider that most Middle East scholars outside of the U.S. believe such a peace settlement and the creation of a Palestinian state would do more to eliminate terrorism than any military operation against terrorists and their sympathizers we could possibly dream up.
George W. Bush didn‘t need to put his neck on the line. The past failures to bring a real peace to the region make any new plan a longer shot than the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. Bush could have basked in the popular military successes that crushed dictatorships in Iraq and Afghanistan - and been reelected for a second term.
Instead, the president is rolling the dice on his political future by doing the right thing. At this time, a unique window of opportunity for peace is here. The following elements have converged upon this moment to give hope for a permanent Mideast solution:
(1) Israel and the U.S. were afforded a big concession by the Palestinians via the elimination PLO chief Yasser Arafat from any upcoming peace conferences. In their eyes, Arafat never seemed serious about concluding any major deal concerning the disputed territories. The hope is that PLO Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is serious about peace.
(2) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has shocked Israelis and Palestinians alike by discussing the “occupation“ of Palestinian territories. Most Israeli politicians refer to the 3.5 million Palestinians under Israeli military as living in “disputed territories“. As a noted hawk regarding disputes with Arabs, Sharon has helped clear a path that would create a Palestinian state and theoretically eliminate the critical reason for Arab terrorism.
(3) Also, a favorable timing for peace is present because all parties concerned are sick and tired of the continued bloodshed in Israel and the surrounding territories. Jews and Arabs alike want the killing to stop.
(4) After quick military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush can now afford to pursue peace without appearing weak on terrorism to his constituents. Also, he knows it may be decades before all of the above factors are in place again.
If the Roadmap is successful, an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians would provide Bush a triumph that has eluded nine previous U.S. presidents - a lasting Mid-East peace that will do more to ensure American security than wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Syria combined.
Let us pray that our president is successful.